Forestry worker had safety concerns before death

By Kyra Dawson

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MOURNING: Donna McMurtrie, holding a picture of her husband David, with (back left to right) David Lee, Rebekah, and Davey McMurtrie. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
MOURNING: Donna McMurtrie, holding a picture of her husband David, with (back left to right) David Lee, Rebekah, and Davey McMurtrie. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

The son of an Opotiki forestry worker killed at work in 2012 was seriously injured in the same industry two years before his father's death.

The revelation came during an inquest into the death of David Wayne McMurtrie before Rotorua coroner Wallace Bain today.

CTU lawyer Peter Cranney and McMurtrie family lawyer Simon Miekle questioned WorkSafe investigator Roger Merriman about the investigation.

Mr Cranney referred to two other cases that happened in similar circumstances. One was in 2010 and involved the dead man's son, Luke McMurtrie, whose vertebrae was crushed after a tree branch fell on him.

The other was a near miss a month before Mr McMurtrie died.

Mr Cranney questioned why nothing had been done to prevent them happening again.

Mr Cranney said the employer was required to provide an observer, according to WorkSafe, when there was high stacking. He then asked why Mr McMurtrie did not have an observer.

Mr Merriman responded Mr McMurtrie was an experienced worker who would have asked for an observer if he thought he needed one.

"His son suffered crushed vertebrae, there was a near miss a month before and then he is killed," Mr Cranney said. "And you say it's his fault because he didn't organise an observer, which is the job of the employer?"

Mr Merriman replied: "Should he have required it, he would have asked."

Mr Miekle asked why workers couldn't spend time each morning mapping out the hazards before they started work.

Hazel Armstrong from the Independent Forestry Safety Review said in her findings from the review she had written admissions from forestry workers saying that they found mapping out the hazards helped.

Donna McMurtrie spoke through tears in her address to the court as she spoke about her late husband.

"Dave was one of the most safety conscious people I knew of. He would come home and express his concerns about the safety issues at work.

"As a wife and mother I often feared for the safety of Dave and my two boys [who also worked in the industry]. They would often tell me about the accidents that weren't recorded in order to prevent the company from paying higher ACC levies."

She said on the day her husband died she wasn't notified until 3.30pm, when she was expecting him to walk through the door.

"I was furious that he had been killed at 10.30am but I didn't get to him until 5.30pm. As next of kin I should have been notified immediately.

"The way that Dave's events were handled were shocking."

Dr Bain said the court would reserve its findings for a month.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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